Arrested Development.

By Posted in - All Things Design & Changing Business of Design on June 26th, 2013 Arrested Professional Development

When Mitchell Hurwitz created the elaborate, comical script Arrested Development for FOX and then NETFLIX about the “riches to rags” Bluth family’s over-the-top dysfunction, it became obvious in the ratings that extreme relational dysfunction in television can be really funny.

However, in real life and more specifically, in the interior design profession, dysfunction left unchecked or unchallenged, can be debilitating to say the least. Some of us have unwittingly trained ourselves to become comfortable with fears, failures and relationship dysfunction in the workplace. Often, we put off changing our behavior and have called a truce with the outcomes we’ve become used to. We get stuck responding to issues using behaviors and patterns of thinking that hurt us and are harmful to those we work with. This type of “arrested development” is not so funny.

Here is a short list of seven dysfunctional, professional thought patterns all of which, by the way, can be eliminated overtime so that not only will your design business benefit, your business relationships will too.

  1. Feeling like an imposter and, therefore, devaluing your professional worth.
  2. Failing to charge enough for the experience(s) you bring to the table.
  3. Not investing in the tools you need for your business because of an “I’ll get by” mentality.
  4. Attracting the wrong kind of clients by being the “wrong” type of professional.
  5. Being afraid of making mistakes or taking on risk.
  6. Not practicing the art of envisioning great results.
  7. Procrastinating which has its roots in one or all of the above.

The first three of these areas of dysfunction can be overcome by quantifying your worth and then slowly taking control of your thoughts about yourself that reflect that worth.  Interior design organizations, associations, support groups and networking with like minded peers can help immensely because many of your designer friends know what they are worth and their business and pricing reflect that. Feelings of insecurity, inferiority fueled by negative self talk – are all things we can unlearn with practice and support. No one can say with certainty that their patterns of thinking are always spot-on and positive professionally.  So it’s a good idea to remind yourself on occasion not blame yourself too harshly . The reason is simple.

Many of us have just been sitting in the wrong “classroom” learning from the wrong “teachers”.  Both are easy to fix!

Attracting the wrong kind of design client, number four on our list of developmental challenges, is also pretty easy to permanently fix.  Remind yourself that  there is never a time when you are not in control of who you work with. Period!

Your design clients don’t make you work with them. Deciding which clients to work with and which to leave out of the equation comes down to what you think you are worth professionally (back up to the first three!) and since you have quantified that already (!) and are now practicing believing in yourself as a professional interior designer who brings a great deal of value to any table (!), your clients are your choice!

Five and six on our list are also related to one another. Taking on professional risk assumes you know how to visualize great results. When you are not a risk taker, you are often not a person who can visualize or conceptualize your success very well. However, both of these are not difficult things to overcome. You’ll need both will power and support. To say that having a support system is a necessity in business should, quite frankly, not have to be said at all. It is an inherent truth. So if you are not a member of a design association, a regular “camp” of peers, coaching relationship or mentoring group- find one and get started! Nothing will help you overcome professional dysfunction like rubbing shoulders and batting around ideas with like minded peers who have decided not to go it alone either.

And lastly, procrastination is what you’ll discover about yourself when you stop reading this post, to put it bluntly. We find out who we are and what we’re made of  by each small, incremental defining moment. It’s not usually the big things that make us successful. It’s the smallest, most mundane hourly choices that make up who we are, what we’ll decide to do next and what we’ll ulitmately accomplish. Procrastination is more often rooted in dysfunctional thinking about our value as a professional and not in reality itself.  Something is keeping us from moving forward (arrested development) and although we may say its a past failure, present over stimulation, or an unsupportive spouse, what is often keeping us from moving forward is about our sense of who we are, how we value ourselves, and what we think may happen if we move into unknown territory.

The good news is that professional “arrested development” although not as funny as the Bluth’s, is, more often than not, fixable. It’s a journey in partnership with your mind and a journey with others. It’s an intellectual athletic exercise.  So if you are fearful, if you’ve failed at something in the past, or if you are uncomfortable or feeling less valuable than the people you work with and, have a feeling it is all somehow your fault (and that may be true) then you are not alone. But what you do with that information as a professional interior designer is what will define who you and your design business ultimately.

So, remember, if you think you may be struggling with your own area of “arrested development” as a design professional, then quantifying your worth, being sure to include your education and years of experience in the equation, internalizing your value each day as a practice of self talk rather than self incrimination, and grabbing hold of a support system of inspired peers will allow you to work your business from the drivers seat of design.

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